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17-01-2010 | Gynaecology | Article

‘Expiry date’ misconception common in patients undergoing embryo cryopreservation


Journal abstract

MedWire News: Study findings show that patients undergoing embryo cryopreservation have misconceptions, doubts, and fears about the effectiveness of treatment, which are rarely discussed with medical staff.

“These beliefs may be important in patients’ decision-making about the subsequent use of these embryos in their treatment and the disposition of embryos that still remain after their families are completed,” say Veerle Provoost (Ghent University, Belgium) and co-authors.

The researchers performed in-depth interviews based on interpretative phenomenological analysis with seven couples and 11 female patients undergoing assisted reproduction treatment at the Ghent University Hospital.

Analysis revealed that most participants knew very little about the technical side of the medical procedures involved in cryopreservation, storage, and thawing of embryos. Nonetheless, most participants did not show a need for this kind of knowledge due to confidence placed in the medical team.

Interestingly, the team found that seven of the 18 participants thought that embryo quality diminished with increasing storage periods, thawing, and general manipulation. In addition, on many occasions participants used metaphors related to frozen food conservation, indicating a belief that frozen embryos have an “expiry date.”

However, none of the patients considering cryopreservation voiced their concerns with medical staff and rarely discussed the moral status of their embryos.

Provoost and co-authors suggest that patients be given information about embryo storage at the start of their treatment to address any initial concerns.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Ingrid Grasmo